German retailer KarstadtQuelle said Tuesday that group sales fell last year, not least as a result of customer uncertainty surrounding the future of the troubled retailer. KarstadtQuelle said in a statement it booked sales of €14.2 billion ($18.6 billion) in 2004, down 7 percent from a year earlier. In the fourth quarter alone, sales tumbled 9.5 percent to €4.12 billion. "The start of the (fourth) quarter was very difficult," KarstadtQuelle lamented. "Due to customer uncertainty resulting from the public debate about our future, we registered a significant reduction in sales in some business units." In the first part of the quarter, the group sustained a shortfall in sales running into hundreds of millions of euros. However, "developments stabilised in the latter part of the quarter," KarstadtQuelle said. "In the light of the difficult circumstances, we are satisfied with developments in the fourth quarter. Christmas trading lay within the boundaries we had expected," said chairman Christoph Achenbach. "This is an important pre-requisite for the 2005 business year," he added. In order to pull itself out of its deep financial crisis, KarstadtQuelle has embarked on a massive restructuring plan, slashing 5,500 jobs over three years, freezing salaries, selling off non-core activities and divesting unprofitable stores.